As We May Think by Vannevar Bush

As We May Think by Vannevar Bush


Vannevar demonstrates an amazing ability to foresee real possibilities in the development of technologies of the future (from his present of 1945). He demonstrated an inventive and intuitive scientific mindfulness.  I saw in his discourse predictions of the digital camera, a copy machine, a scanner that converts type into electronic format, a desktop computer, databases that are keyed and that can be queried by selection criterion (googled).  He also envisioned prosthetic limbs, speech synthesizers (Renowned physicist Steven Hawkins speaks through one), and even the capacity to effect a change in the environment through just though of the brain by sensing its electrical impulses.  I also saw glimpses of artificially intelligent robots, governed by rule based logic or heuristic systems.  He was certainly a man before his time.  Perhaps that was his point.  Many thinkers were ahead of their time but were encumbered by the inaccessibility of the world’s current knowledge base.  A greater ease of access to the world’s knowledge base would correspondingly allow for technical obstacles to be surmounted and the essence of the new idea freely employed.  The Internet coupled with powerful search engines has certainly overcome this barrier of inaccessible information to a great measure. 


Vannevar freed his mind beyond the constraints of current limiting or immature methods.  He expressed a positive vision of the use of technology to enable humans to fully express their mastery over the physical realm, giving more time and freedom to explore possibilities of progressively rich mind fields laced with sublime logic and creative thought.  I share is optimism in the human potential to use technology for such lofty yet attainable goals.  I echo his caution that there is also a great potential for misuse and abuse of technology that can end the human evolutionary experiment.  Humankind must exercise caution in the deployment of new technologies so as not to allow the tail of technology to wag the dog of human well being.  


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